Feeds

What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this

Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Vid Harvard University computer scientists have built a 1,000-strong robot army that can form itself into shapes with little human input.

KIlobots

And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (click to enlarge)

The machines, dubbed kilobots because there are 1,024 of them, each contain an Atmel micrcontroller, two vibrating motors powering rigid legs that allow them to skitter across smooth surfaces, and an infrared emitter-sensor pair to receive commands and communicate wirelessly. They can form into various shapes, including a starfish and the letter K, according to a paper to be published in Science.

Youtube video of the kilobots

The researchers beamed into the droids images of the forms they wanted the robots to take. Four robots act as stationary anchor points and the rest of the kilobots organize around them by communicating with their peers and moving along the edge of the swarm until they are in the correct position.

The team took their inspiration from the way ants, termites, and swallows cooperate in nature. By mimicking biological systems the team hopes to develop artificial intelligence systems that could be used to organize more advanced robots.

"Increasingly, we're going to see large numbers of robots working together, whether its hundreds of robots cooperating to achieve environmental cleanup or a quick disaster response, or millions of self-driving cars on our highways," said Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

"Understanding how to design 'good' systems at that scale will be critical. We can simulate the behavior of large swarms of robots, but a simulation can only go so far. The real-world dynamics—the physical interactions and variability—make a difference, and having the Kilobots to test the algorithm on real robots has helped us better understand how to recognize and prevent the failures that occur at these large scales."

Nagpal's robo-swarm has been in development for a few years now – the video below shows the mob previously pushing stuff around in a totally non-terrifying way – but the paper published tomorrow will detail how her team corralled more than a thousand bots at once.

Youtube video of the robots swarming to move things

The team has published the robots' mechanical blueprints, schematics, microcontroller firmware and other software – and it hopes others will take the idea forward. So if there's a budding megalomaniac with plans for world domination out there, it's time to get cracking. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.